With the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, is there any remaining reason for the United States to be a major participant in Middle Eastern politics? Leon Hadar says no in this incisive book, Quagmire: America in the Middle East. Hadar, a former UN bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post who teaches political science at the American University in Washington, writes that it is time to rethink America's decades-old Middle Eastern policy, which was fashioned in the crucible of the Cold War. He challenges the public and policymakers to break out of the mold of obsolete thinking and to take a fresh look at taken-for-granted premises. Quagmire begins by noting that dramatic changes in the old Soviet bloc in 1989 and 1990 had begun to force a reconsideration of America's international role - until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. "Foreign policy paradigms die hard," Hadar writes in his preface. "Both Arabs and Israelis and their supporters in Washington were attempting to draw the United States back into active diplomatic and military involvement in the Middle East. Their efforts were seconded by those of frustrated Cold Warriors who hoped that perceived threats emanating from the Middle East would give rise to new calls for military expenditures and intervention." One effect of the Iraqi crisis and ensuing war was to temporarily save the foreign policy establishment from a painful readjustment. Those, including President Bush, who advocated a continued global military role for the United States could point to Iraq to illustrate the threat of "instability" that required an American response. Although other regions, Central Europe, for example, evidenced instability, the Middle East, with its riches of oil, furnished an apparently unanswerable case for American globalism. Hadar argues that recent developments in the Middle East do not in fact demonstrate a need for American involvement there. Noting that the various regional disputes go back centuries, he points out that American leaders have neither the power nor the knowledge to manage the conflict and the lives of people in the Middle East. U.S. meddling and balance-of-power gambits, he writes, inevitably make the various parties more irresponsible and less willing to take advantage of opportunities for settling disputes. In addition, intervention creates resentment that can manifest itself in violence against innocent American citizens. Hadar calls on the United States to redefine its role with respect to Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab countries, and Iran. He identifies the special interests - conservative and liberal, Arabist and pro-Israeli - that urge an energized American presence in the Middle East for their own purposes and argues persuasively that maintaining such a presence is not in the general interest of the American people. Hadar concludes that it is time for the United States to disengage from the region politically, diplomatically, and militarily, though not economically, and to adopt a policy of benign neglect
1. Introduction: Coping With the Post-Cold War Summer Blues -- 2. The Rise of the Middle Eastern Bogeyman: From a Cold War to a Middle Eastern War -- 3. The Sources of U.S. Intervention -- 4. The Special Relationship Between America and Israel -- 5. Transforming the American-Israeli Connection: Helping Israel to Help Itself -- 6. Between American Hegemony and European Free Riding: Confronting the Gulf War Rift -- 7. The Coming American-European Struggle Over the Middle East -- 8. Israel and Palestine: Toward a Federal Solution -- 9. Conclusion: Is There a Way Out of the Middle Eastern Morass?